Monday, July 5, 2010
With the holiday weekend temperatures looking pretty severe we canceled our sailing plans and choose instead to hit the road for a day trip. My wife being her usual good sport agreed to drive so I could navigate. I always find it amazing how little I know of the state I live in, despite residing here for 25 years. People always seem to need to find exotic places to go. I could take off a month and spend it exploring the backroads of New Jersey. Of course this exploration usually involves trains in some ways. As much as I like railfaning, I also like following the actual or former track of a railroad, imagining what it was, the industries along the way, the infrastructure,...etc. One thing that is necessary for this type of excursion is a state Atlas and Gazetteer - this is not a road map per se, but rather a compilation of USGS Quads with additional information added. I have just started to highlight the different roads on the map (circa 1950s) with different colors so I can keep track of the sometimes twisted routes. With no real plan, we left, heading north on 295 toward Trenton. By the time we had reached Trenton I had decided to explore parts of north western New Jersey. I was familiar with the area along the Delaware River, specifically the old Pennsy Bel-Del line, so this time I stuck a little further inland, following the general path of the CNJ and LV north of Flemington and then onward to Phillipsburg. Approaching Phillipsburg I went through Alpha, NJ, and recalling its past as a portland cement manufacturing center we drove around looking for any remains of this industry. Sticking close to the old CNJ line we stumbled upon a concrete monument on the side of the road - I recognized this as a safety award similar to one that I had seen at the Universal Atlas Cement Plant in Hudson, NY when I documented that site in the 1980s. A few hundred yards up an industrial looking street were four concrete silos, obviously once part of a larger complex, but now all that remains. The silos are still used for some sort of agricultural purpose and the remained of the plant looks to have been bulldozed and a modern industrial park build in its place. There were some neat looking steel dinosaurs at a fabrication company - see picture. From Alpha it was a short hop to Phillipsburg, a former busy railroad town. Five railroads had terminals in this town and three actually crossed the river here into, Pennsylvania - the CNJ, LV, and L&HR all had their own bridges. The Lackawanna had an interchange yard here as did the Pennsy. (Where didn't the Pennsy) The former station for I guess the LV and CNJ is now being restored and has a fledging museum inside. All the excitement that day in town was on another famous train - Thomas the Tank Engine. Thomas was in town and part of a big merchandising fair. Thomas, pulling a few NYS&W coaches was running excursions on the old Bel-Del line. At Phillipsburg we crossed the Delaware into Easton and headed north along the river. Jim Harr of Stella Scale Models had given a presentation at the Valley Forge prototype meet this year on Alpha Cement in Martins Creek (yes, another Alpha Cement), and being so close I thought I'd take a few pictures. From there I followed the railroad north into Bangor - I believe the railroad I was following was formerly the Lackawanna. From Bangor we went back toward the river, crossing into New Jersey at Portland. By now it was getting late and we needed to start heading toward home. Passing through Buttzville, NJ (yes that's a real name) we made the obligatory stop at the famous Hot Dog Johnny's (they deep fry their dogs in peanut oil and serve them with a large pickle slice, mustard, and onions, plus have Birch Beer on tap). Still working our way home we stopped at a train store for supplies in Sommerville and then Thomas Sweets in New Brunswick for Ice Cream. (You might be seeing a trend that I am motivated by food or trains) A quick run down the uber convenient New Jersey Turnpike and we were home.